By Jarrett Renshaw
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. travelers will hit the roads, rails and skies this Christmas holiday in their largest numbers on record, lured by cheap plane tickets and a growing economy, the nation's largest motor advocacy group said on Thursday.
Roughly 107.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles (80 km) or more from home during Dec. 23 through Jan. 1, a 3.1 percent increase from a year earlier and the most ever recorded, AAA said in a report.
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That would be the sixth consecutive record high for the holiday season, the Heathrow, Florida-based organization said.
“More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home,” AAA Senior Vice President Bill Sutherland said. "We’ve seen the strong economy and growing consumer confidence fuel holiday travel all year long.”
The largest share of travel, roughly 90.7 percent, will be on U.S. roads. Energy traders watch this activity closely because it accounts for 10 percent of global oil demand.
U.S. motor trips will rise to 97.3 million for this holiday season, the seventh consecutive annual increase, AAA said.
The group expects air travel to grow by 4.1 percent to 6.4 million trips, the highest since 2004 as passengers take advantage of lower ticket prices.
Air travel now accounts now for 5.9 percent of all travel, following four consecutive years of share increases, AAA said.
For 2017, motorists are on pace to break the record for most vehicle miles driven on U.S. roads, helping spur potential record demand for gasoline.
U.S. gasoline demand and vehicle miles traveled both set records in 2016. [nL1N1OC196]
Gas prices jumped more than 10 percent after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, peaking on Sept. 8 at an average of $2.67 a gallon. Prices were at $2.45 a gallon on Thursday, up about 9 percent from a year earlier, AAA said.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)